Poulter leads WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after 62

Ian Poulter

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational first-round leaderboard
-8 I Poulter (Eng); -7 K Stanley (US), R Fowler (US); -6 P Cantlay (US), J Rahm (Spa), SW Kim (Kor); -5 R McIlroy (NI), J Day (Aus), M Leishman (Aus), A Lahiri (Ind), L List (US), J Thomas (US), K Na (US); -4 B Koepka (US), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng), T Woods (US), H Li (Chn), P Mickelson (US), P Reed (US)
Selected others: -3 R Knox (Sco), R Fisher (Eng); -2 P Casey (Eng), T Hatton (Eng), A Scott (Aus), M Kuchar (US)

England’s Ian Poulter finished a shot short of the course record with an eight-under 62 on the opening day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Poulter, 42, sunk eight birdies to take the first-round lead at Firestone, a shot ahead of American pair Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is tied seventh on five under in Akron, Ohio.

Tiger Woods, playing for the first time since The Open, started his bid for a ninth title with an opening 66.

The 42-year-old American made five birdies on the way to his lowest score in the first round of a PGA Tour event since August 2015.

Among those alongside Woods on four under are England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, US Open champion Brooks Koepka, Masters champion Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson.

Favourable conditions meant 45 of the 71-man field finished under par on a course which has always provided a stern test to the world’s best players.

A host of big names, which also includes 2015 US PGA Championship winner Jason Day and world number three Justin Thomas, are in close contention.

“We couldn’t have got it easier, no wind, very soft – you had to hit very poor shots to get it off line or to miss greens,” said McIlroy.

Stanley claimed the early clubhouse lead after six birdies on the front nine, before Poulter – back inside the world’s top 35 after almost losing his PGA Tour card last year – edged ahead later in the day.

Poulter, who said he was not aware he was a shot off the course record, made pars on his final two holes as he fell short of the 61s carded by Jose Maria Olazabal, Woods, Sergio Garcia and Hideki Matsuyama.

“It would have been lovely to get another one or two birdies, but eight under is a great score on this course,” he said.

“I had a lot of fun. Whenever you shoot 62, especially on this golf course, you must have done a lot of good things. I gave myself loads of chances.

“Tied 13th is as good as I’ve done here and that is not good enough. So it was good motivation to come out, try to be aggressive and post a good number.”

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BBC Sport – Golf

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